Russians Do Smile

Posted on | December 21, 2013 | No Comments

Russians are known not to smile much. In particular, they do not smile at strangers or people who are not close to them. They consider this as impolite.

I and my wife witnessed this culture-shock first-hand when we dealt with the Russian parents in our after-school program. For a while since we took over, they just looked hostile to us, as if we had offended them in some way. Although we knew this was a cultural thing, still we found it difficult to get along with them. It was much easier to get along with their kids though, who were very much ‘Canadianized’.

Since the start of the new school year, the number of students dropped to a point that we decided to close down the program for good. This was sad enough. Even more sad, those who remained in the program were the ones who liked our program and wanted it to continue.

It was during this period that I began to get to know the parents better. One parent, who used to be mad at us with a lot of complaints now became very talkative and friendly to us. Another, who never smiled at us, started to smile when I greeted her. A dad who used to look ‘cool’ now started to make small jokes when we chatted. When the Russians know you better, their behavior toward you change dramatically.

Today was the last day of our program. I feel sad to bit farewell to the staff, the parents, and the children (although there were not many left). All the parents showed their appreciation to us, some even gave us Christmas gifts. We all felt that we were going miss each other, in particular, the children. At the end, we all promised to keep in touch.

My time with the Russian community seems to be ending here, and I hope I can still keep my motivation going in learning the language. I have certainly learned a lot about the Russians and their culture, but still there are a lot that I cannot understand.

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